What happens if the cops don’t read me my rights?

Do you know your constitutional rights?

I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we’re going to answer a viewer question from Rhonda in Wilmington, Delaware. Rhonda wrote in, and she asked essentially, “In a criminal case, what happens if the cops don’t read me my rights?”

It’s a good question, and I have to tell you that it is a question that comes up very, very frequently in the context of criminal defense cases. People have been arrested. The police officers followed a procedure, but the person who was arrested questions whether it was the right procedure, or the proper procedure, or the constitutional procedure to follow. So, in criminal cases, we oftentimes are asked to evaluate, “Did the police officer does something wrong when they did not read me my rights?”

All right. Let’s back up and talk about Miranda versus Arizona. Miranda v. Arizona was a United States Supreme Court case, and basically what it said was that the police officer who arrests you, who has you in custodial interrogation, has to advise you of certain rights before you can be interrogated, if the material, if the stuff you say is going to be entered into evidence in a criminal trial against you. You, as a United States citizen, have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to talk to the cops at all. You have a right to an attorney, and you have other rights, constitutional rights, very important constitutional rights. What the United States
Supreme Court said was the police officer has to advise you of your rights, and you have to make a waiver, you have to waive your rights before you talk to the police, if the police are going to use that evidence, the statements that you make, the material that you say, if they’re going to use that evidence against you.

So, people oftentimes get arrested and the police do not read them their rights, but honestly, if the police don’t read you your rights and they don’t interrogate you, they don’t ask you any questions, they just arrest you without doing the interrogation, then what difference does it make? If you’re not trying to get a court to throw out your statements, if you’re not trying to get a court to suppress your confession, then what difference does it make if the police arrest you without reading you your rights?

This is a question in many cases, and it’s a question that if you’ve been arrested, and the police did not read you your rights, you need to have a conversation with your criminal defense attorney to see if it gives you anything, any grounds to stand on to defend the case or to file a motion to suppress.

Rhonda in Wilmington, Delaware, I’m speaking to you now. If it’s a situation in your case where you were brought in by the police, you were in custody, the police interrogate you, they ask you questions, and you make a statement implicating yourself in a crime, and that’s the basis for the arrest, then you do have the right to file a motion to suppress your statement, or to suppress your confession, meaning to get it out of evidence, so that the jury never hears it. If the police interrogated you before you gave that confession, before you gave that statement, then they did the right thing, and maybe you don’t have the right to file that motion. If it’s a situation where you were brought into custody by the police and they never asked you any questions, they already had the arrest warrant, they already have all the evidence they need, and they aren’t interrogating you, they don’t read you the Miranda Rights, then maybe it’s not a situation where it gives you anything to go on; maybe it doesn’t give you a defense.

But that’s the issue. The issue is, if you’re saying, “I was arrested and I was not read my rights,” the issue comes down to was it a custodial interrogation where you made a statement that needs to be excluded or suppressed so that the jury never hears it? If they didn’t read you your Miranda Rights, if they didn’t get a valid waiver of your rights, then maybe the question is yes. Yes, you can suppress it. Yes, they did something wrong. If they didn’t interrogate you and you didn’t make a statement and they didn’t read you your rights, then maybe you got nothing. It’s something that you have to look at on a case by case basis. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, wherever you are, whatever jurisdiction you’re in, I would highly, highly suggest that you get yourself a Top Flight Criminal Defense Attorney and raise this issue with her or with him.

Rhonda, I appreciate you sending in that question. If you’re watching this video and you have questions for me about the law, about criminal defense, about personal injury or wrongful death cases, please send me an email.

Thanks for watching.

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